Charlottesville, VA – President Donald Trump’s condemnation of hate groups — two days after his initially equivocal response to a deadly attack at a rally in Virginia — disappointed and even angered some of the white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis who supported and felt emboldened by his presidential campaign.
Trump initially blamed “many sides” after violent clashes in Charlottesville, where a participant in a white nationalist rally rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters on Saturday, killing a demonstrator and injuring dozens of others.
Under immense bipartisan pressure to issue a stronger statement, Trump on Monday explicitly denounced the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists and neo-Nazis as “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” and said “justice will be delivered” to those responsible.
Reading from a prepared text, Trump said, “Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.”
White nationalist Richard Spencer told reporters at a news conference Monday that he thought Trump should have criticized state and local authorities for their handling of security at the Charlottesville rally.
“The statement sounds like we might want to all bring out an acoustic guitar and sing “Kum ba yah.” It’s just vapid nonsense,” said Spencer, who popularized the term “alt-right” to describe the fringe movement mixing white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and anti-immigration populism.
Occidental Dissent, a white nationalist website, posted a statement saying whites had been “deserted by their president.”
“He has sided with a group of people who attack us on sight and attempt to kill us and for that the Alt-Right can no longer support him. What Donald Trump has done today is an unforgivable betrayal of his supporters,” the message said.
Trump was criticized during the presidential campaign for failing to immediately reject the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. On Monday, Duke posted a video mildly criticizing Trump’s remarks.
“President Trump, please, for God’s sakes, don’t feel like you’ve got to say these things. It’s not going to do you any good,” he said.
Duke, who participated in the rally, reserved his bile for the “fake news media” covering the events in Charlottesville as he addressed Trump.
“I understand that you’re under a great amount of pressure,” he said. “The problem is you’re under siege. You know these people. They want your scalp. They want to crucify you.”
The publisher of The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, praised Trump’s initial reaction to the Charlottesville violence.
“Nothing specific against us,” Andrew Anglin wrote. “No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
Anglin dismissed Trump’s second statement as “childish nonsense.”
“I’m not especially bothered by it,” he said in an email to The Associated Press. “If he actually believed that nonsense, or was planning on implementing it as policy, he would have said it before being bullied into it by the international thought police.”